Thousands of roadway safety advocates filled the Phoenix Convention Center this week for ATSSA’s 53rd Annual Convention & Traffic Expo, exploring the latest technology and equipment for protecting lives within work zones and on the nation’s roadways.
A record-setting number of people registered, with more than 3,700 for this year’s event.
With nearly 50 education sessions to choose from, they gained both practical tips—such as how to negotiate contracts to limit liability—and enhanced their understanding of critical workplace safety and technology issues such as advances in communication between work zones and connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs).
Keynote speaker Scott Wozniak, an organizational leadership expert from Atlanta, addressed a key workforce issue on Sunday when he offered insights for building a successful team by focusing on the essential element of employee engagement.
He explained his seven elements of the employee engagement engine but started with a baseline question and observation.
“Do you know what makes them tick,” he said. “The fuel that threads through all of this is to speak to your people about what matters to them.”
Former U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania weighed in on Monday with insights from his 17-plus years in Congress where he chaired the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He took part in a Legislative Insights Forum during which he chatted with ATSSA Vice President of Engagement Nate Smith, who leads the Association’s advocacy team.
Three national awards were announced during the Convention: Peter Speer of Pexco for the Industry Achievement Award, Neil Boudreau of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation MassDOT for the National Safety Award and Jerry Britt, now a consultant for PPG, for the Mark of Excellence Award.
Blue Vigil of Sterling, Va., earned an Innovation Award for its ALED Portable Light which is a person-portable area lighting system that mounts a high-intensity LED array on a tethered unmanned aerial vehicle UAV that can be positioned up to 100 feet above a job site. That was one of 18 products in this year’s New Products Rollout. It wowed the department of transportation officials who served as judges.
Throughout the Convention, participants established and strengthened relationships through informal gatherings between sessions and on the Traffic Expo floor as well as in organized gatherings including the Chair’s Reception where they were entertained by American Indian hoop dancers and local music.
With mountains and desert as a backdrop, members also enjoyed two ATSS Foundation events. Both the 31st Annual Golf Classic Tournament and the 10th Annual Sporting Clays event—the two major Foundation fundraisers for the year—were sold out well in advance.
Roadway Worker Memorial Scholarship recipient Joann Jones of Bluffton, Ind., attended the Convention and was on hand at the golf tournament, held at Wigwam Golf Club in Litchfield Park, Arizona. Joann’s father, Dale Jones, was killed in a work zone incident in 2009. She attends Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland where she is studying astrophysics.
Scholarship recipient Rylee O’Brien of Frederic, Wisc., also attended the Convention and interacted with members taking part in the clays event at Ben Avery Clay Target Center in Phoenix. Her father, Robert O’Brien, was permanently disabled in a work zone incident in 2017. He and Rylee’s mother, Heather, attended the Convention. Rylee headed home on Sunday to resume her nursing studies at Minnesota State University Mankato.
The two college students weren’t the only young participants in this year’s Convention. Two students from Arlington High School in Arlington, Mass., won this year’s Traffic Control Device TCD Student Challenge, which is open to students from high school through graduate school. Petru Sofio and Talia Askenazi are computer-aided drafting and design students. Talia gave a presentation on Monday of their solution to this year’s challenge: Innovative Traffic Control Devices to Improve Vulnerable Road User Safety.
The Arizona ATSSA Chapter AZ-ATSSA also encouraged future roadway safety infrastructure professionals to attend the Convention. The chapter hosted Student Day on Monday during which local students from 7th grade through university level could attend for free, enjoy a luncheon to learn about the industry and then tour the Traffic Expo floor and interact with exhibitors.
“It was great to see so many young people taking part in this year’s Convention & Traffic Expo,” ATSSA President & CEO Stacy Tetschner said. “This industry offers limitless opportunities for careers that can contribute to saving lives and utilize the latest technology. I hope they were inspired by what they saw and we will see them continue to grow in their interest. This event is a wonderful way to learn the many ways our industry advances roadway safety. I’m already looking forward to next year’s event in San Diego.”